Are Immigration Courts Getting it Right?

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An immigration courtroom in Texas.

Kit Johnson

An immigration courtroom in Texas.

An undocumented immigrant in America goes to work, sends his kids to school, pays taxes, shops at the supermarket, plays ball at the park. His life looks a lot like everyone else’s – until he gets caught.

Then, his fate will likely depend on a system unlike anything the rest of us know: the U.S. Immigration Courts.

These are courts where the judge is not an impartial observer, but an employee of the very executive branch whose actions he rules upon. They are places where the right to counsel is flimsy, where rules of evidence are lax. They are where loopholes force both sides into torturous arguments over whether a migrant’s story is sufficiently tragic to warrant their staying in our land.

Immigrants often lack support to help them navigate this complicated system. Recently, some local governments – like New York City’s – have begun to fund more legal help for immigrants facing court hearings. But those resources are stretched paper thin.

With support from readers like you – matched by Beacon – City Limits will produce an investigative report on the immigration courts in the New York City area, examining how lawyers, federal officers, judges, advocates and others hurt or help the notion that these courts give immigrants a fair hearing.

As we follow individual cases, speak to stakeholders and look at both the local and national picture, we’ll expose problems in need of reform and identify potential solutions.

Much divides Americans on the topic of immigration. But almost all would agree that while some people do not belong here, some do. Immigration courts wield virtually unrivaled power to determine who stays and goes – giving all of us a stake in learning whether or not they’re equipped to get it right.

Your pledge makes our reporting possible. And with matching funds from Beacon, every dollar will have twice the impact.

Click here to learn more or back this project.

  • RIKKI

    NO………what is needed is to eliminate all interpreters from immigration hearings,
    if you cant read, write, and speak English to the judges and clerks,
    then why are you still here..?????

  • Valery Gomez

    The only immigrants that deserve to stay here are the ones who came here legally and never overstayed their visas. All others should be repatriated.